Law report: Biker to blame for horse collision

Judge's gavel

This law report has been contributed by national law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer.

Devereux v (1) Hayward (2) Equity Claims
Queen's Bench Division, 28 October 2011

The claimant, an experienced horse owner, and her husband were riding single file in the New Forest when they were approached from the opposite direction by the defendant riding his motorbike at speed with a pillion.

When he saw the horses, the defendant, who had lived in the area all his life and was accustomed to encountering the animals, dipped his clutch to reduce the revs and therefore the noise generated by his loud, non-standard exhaust system.

Despite often being ridden in traffic, the claimant's horse turned to flee, and as it did so, the defendant lost control and both he and his pillion fell off the bike which was hit by the horse as it fled. The claimant fell backwards onto the road sustaining a serious head injury.

The judge held that the accident was caused wholly by the defendant's failure to keep control of his motorbike. He did not find the claimant contributorily negligent for failing to avoid the approaching bike or failing to dismount as the horse had never previously been scared by traffic.

Comment

The trial judge criticised the strength of the defendant’s evidence, both in respect of the investigations undertaken and because it was not consistent with either the police statements or that of his pillion. Horse riders have no less priority on the road than motorised vehicles, and the Highway Code requires motorists to take extra care around horses. It is also worth bearing in mind before deciding to bring a motor claim to trial that there is no absolute duty on riders to preserve their horses going out of control, the usual principles of negligence apply.
Louise Abbott, BLM Southampton

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